The remembrance of the days when I still was using, still passes upon me with a flame of excruciating regret. Yesterday I saw a boy, in his eyes I found the resemblance to my young self he bears upon his features, and for a second I was lost in the stream of memories his face had blown in me.
It's been weeks since I had someone home. I lived alone for the better part of twenty years. Sometimes when I sit in front of the TV, it would to me the memories of my childhood home, and the sounds of that time would fill up my consciousness, and I would lose shape of the world I've created for myself, and dive into the past, living through the passage of time, a broken tape playing in my mind. I lost touch with my siblings years ago, and in my state, this squalor of a life I live, I'm unable to rekindle that long gone relationship of ours. So when the image of them passes by my eyes, I feel waves churning in my stomach, waves of bitterness.
When I think of my family, sometimes it would become clear to me that I was not treated fairly. But my heart cares not for what they wronged me, but only for them, without what they did or not did to me. A man stops to care for what people had done to him, when he finds nobody around him, neither to help him nor to hurt him.
To have a clearer picture of my life, the unremarkable journey I've been sailing for about fifty years, I have to tell you of what had caused me in the first place to become this miserable weak little man I am today.
As a kid, I was prone to be led around by my peers. It was as if I had no authority over myself. My father used to scold me over the fact that I was too weak, that I let people do what they wanted to do to me, without me daring to point that out to them. And I always knew he was right. When I first started smoking, it was not because I've been coveting over the taste of tobacco filling my lungs, but because I worried over what my friends would think of me. Knowing that after all these years, makes me wanna slap my younger self, but then again, unlike my father, who was a complete stranger to the thoughts that floated in gloom upon my consciousness, I had an understanding of why I did what I did.
When people usually criticize someone, it is most likely that they are oblivious to the factors that lead him to act in such a manner, and I came to that realization at a very young age. So as a result, I tended to give excuses to people who treated me badly, which made them continue in their ways towards me. And then of course I learned, the hard way, that understanding something is far from solving it.
The smoking of cigarettes developed with time into more dangerous habits. I fell into an abyss of drugs and slowly lost myself in the quest of satisfying my growing desires. When I first started smoking, it was an innocent act, a mask to cover up for my cowardliness, but then, pleasure got the best of me, and I found myself looking for whatever substance might eventually send me in an eternal revelry. My search was fruitless, for I eventually found myself in the dirt, not able to find pleasure, but enslaved to the promises of those drugs.
By then, my father had already denounced me.
At the age of twenty five, I was on my own, renting a room with a friend of mine. I still had a deteriorating relationship with my mother, and a somewhat natural one with my siblings. They were all informed of my addictions, and so I always detected a tone of contempt in their voices as they addressed me. I tried to shake off the feeling that they might be looking down on me, but I could not. It's almost impossible to avert your eyes from the truth, especially if it's unpleasant.
I remember the days when I tried to stop consuming with a certain pride. Although it is undeniable that I failed miserably, it is of more value to me now, knowing that I tried. I still remember with an extreme distinction the mornings when I woke up determined to end my torment, my deceived notion of the eternal ecstasy, that evasive euphoria, just to eventually succumb to the vain desire of relief, of numbness, knowing that nothing but perpetual pain is waiting for me once I'm conscious enough of my world. It is frightening how although you know that in reasonable terms, what you're doing is wrong, that those actions would eventually lead you down into the muddy grounds of your nightmares, but still, as if by a programmed mind, or a trained muscle memory, you walk towards harm, and indulge yourself in it.
I found that the mornings of my childhood are very different from that of my twenties. When the morning back then, shone over the trees that surrounded the house, I was able to appreciate the pale pools of light that bathed our backyard's grass. I was able to look up at the sky, and bury my eyes into the mellow grey clouds, to feel the world oppressed under their soft-looking shapes. I was able to appreciate its light blue, knowing that it would grow stronger, that it would deepen, and that the blueness would seep into the western horizon, and let the violet velvet to creep upon the sky from the eastern rim, just for itself to deepen into the darkness of the night. I was as a child able to appreciate that beauty, that wildness, but as I became more addicted to the drugs, the sky lost its colour, slowly drained of the blue and the crimson and the violet, covered over with a film of sulken greyness.
The world reflected my defeated soul.
I worked multiple jobs, and most of the money of course was liquefied into drugs. I saw my salary vanish into pills and cigarettes. And when at times at night I thought of my future, a fear so intense caught up with my heart, that made me let go of my reality, and create a fantasy that stretched only into the pleasure of the pills.
At that time of my life, I rarely spoke with my family, and to be honest, I did not try to meet with them either. Sometimes when I was with my friends, in some party somewhere enjoying ourselves, it would come to me these moments of sadness. It was as if two worlds pushed against my vision, one of family, one of friends and parties, and I would usually stand up, tell my friends that I'm feeling unwell, and walk out burdened with my timeless pain.
Years had passed, and I was then in my thirties. I still remember when I first was introduced in the facility as a newcomer. I still remember the clean white halls, the wooden banister that cut through the walls, its dark brown colour, the drapes that floated upon the white tiles, as a light breeze pushed in from the garden, the plant pots at every corner. The white coated men that roamed the halls, their faces covered with smiles as they passed us in the lavender-smelling corridors. I always felt uneasy from those smiles, feeling that only disdain and contempt burrowed under.
The rehab was called "Heaven's Footing". After I was found passed out on the floor of my apartment, one of my friends called the ambulance, which luckily came quickly to my rescue. The overdose almost killed me, if not for my friend, who, ironically, is my dealer.
It was there where I first met her. She was sitting by the window, looking out into the garden, where the treetops merged into the clouds in the distance. Her face was lit by the faint light of the evening. It was cold, and so she had a thin quilt upon her shoulders. It seemed to me that she shuddered to those occasional blows of the wind. When I addressed her, she turned her head carefully, with a graceful movement of the neck. Her hair ruffled weakly from the open window, that sent a dewy smell floating in from the garden. It seemed to me at that moment that the trees, the green grass, the soothing wind, the broad lake, were all mirrored in her beauty. She had a slender face, her eyes large gleaned in the soaking rays of the sun, and the tender smile that softened her cheeks was the world flooding its beauty upon her face. I hesitated for a moment, feeling an arrow piercing my chest, but when I spoke, the words flowed with ease, as if buttered by the beauty of her eyes.
As we sat there talking for a while, I found her opening up to me that day, the way the flowers awaken in the cool winds of spring. As she told me her story, her voice delicate, touching upon the words with the utmost care, her life went gradually from being that of a stranger, to that of someone that I not only knew for years, but that I somehow had the memory of, stored somewhere in my mind.
As I was new here, she made sure to introduce me to a bunch of her friends. I got to know people that shared my problems. It was as if some eyes popped on the surface of mind, peering into the lives of these strangers, lives built upon the sounds of words.
There, I spent my dearest moments. I remember the evenings as we sat by the wooden benches of the garden watching the sunset, the redness that spilled over the still water of the lake. The wet grass shimmering under the bracing arms of the sun. I still remember the nights when we slipped into each other's rooms, and huddled in a thin blanket, we would let the moonlight guide our words into the passages of memory. Her eyes basked in the silver light of the moon, it would glimmer in that darkness, her pupils showered with the paleness.
For me to recall these memories is to dare and open a wound, which took a long time to take the image of a healed skin. It's like watching a tragic love story twice. All that joyfulness is meaningless, for the ending, which gives meaning to the passing of time, is that of misery, of separation, of heartbreak. I know that sometimes I tell myself to be grateful, thankful that it even happened. I tell myself that to have the memories of all those happy moments is beautiful in itself. But, no! The memories are not here to sooth me, they are not here to fill the place of what I lost, they are here to remind me that I lost something.
So shortly when we came out of rehab, we started dating. I think that we already knew that this was kind of inevitable, we must've both thought about it in those cold evenings, as we sat shoulder to shoulder, staring at the trees casting their growing shadows upon the darkening grounds.
What really hurt me when I came out, was that I was turned in the minds of who I love to nothing but an addict. They've taken the man out of me, the humanity in me, and made me in their minds into nothing but an addict. You might not understand what I'm trying to say, but the only thing I can say to make matters as lucid as I can, is that they erased all I was to them, all the memories we've created, all the qualities I had, and moulded me to a one dimensional creature, an addict. My purpose, my cause, my life.
My siblings have made it clear that they wanted nothing to do with me. They wished I'd stop calling, passing by, or anything that would put me with them in a conversation. I remember them telling me, as if they all rehearsed it before saying it to me, "You can't change. You said that already too many times. You tried to stop on more than one occasion, but you're only getting worse." Those sentences, blurted out by my brothers and sisters ,reverberated forever in my mind. The echoes of those words crossing the shores of my soul, made me always alarmed of myself, waiting for myself to slip up, to fulfil their prophecies of doom.
When confronted with their indifferent cruelty, I decided that I wanted nothing to do with them either. I cut ties with them, and went back to my love. I was so sure that there was no one in the world, not even my mother, that could love me the way Loubna would. That was her name. The flower that blossomed in the fields of my ashes.
That's the tragic route of beauty. It only burns to be extinguished by misfortune. The same way rain ceases for the sun to shine, the sun ceases to shine for the rain to fall. It was in the third year of our dating when I lost her. We were even thinking of marriage for god's sake!
That year her sister was diagnosed with cancer. It only took her two months to pass away. Loubna loved her so much, she couldn't cope with the severity of grief, so she overdosed the day after the funeral. Everything crumbled in a second, a fleeting moment of weakness.
I think that definitely marked my downfall. I just couldn't care anymore, and when I started caring again, after years of her death, it was too late then. I was stuck in the webs of my own despair. I became nothing but a body, a container empty of life, save the dregs of the past.
I occasionally hear news from my siblings. Some of my nieces and nephews had married, which makes me look at time with frightened eyes.
I don't have friends. I have nobody, really. I work at a pizza shop, and when they address me, they keep asking me for my name. I am a nobody, whose existence matters to nobody.
This is my life. The life of a Kyle Johnson.